Foodiva's Kitchen: January 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

French Fridays with Dorie - Shrimp (Substitute) and Cellophane Noodles

When I was done with this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Shrimp and Cellophane Noodles, it looked nothing like I had imagined and probably nothing like what Dorie had in mind as well! First off, I don't eat shrimps, so I had to find a suitable substitute for that. Secondly, I grabbed the wrong kind of noodles in my rush to grocery shop this afternoon. Instead of glass or cellophane noodles, which is string-like and clear when cooked, I brought home a packet of flat rice-noodles instead. The mistake is forgivable (at least I hope so), the noodles were clear while uncooked and it never occurred to me to read the ingredients label properly. Rice noodles actually turn white and opaque upon cooking, unlike the transparent glass noodles. Okay, that was the very least of my worries.

The other day, I had bought a box of fresh black fungus, not really knowing what they were or what to do with them. Then when I opened up Dorie's cookbook and did a little research on Chinese ear mushrooms. Whatddya know? They're also known as black fungus, and since I had fresh instead of dried ones, I could skip the soaking part and threw them straight into the cooking pan. Crunchy little things, these are... and really great additions to soups and stir-fries. I sliced them into strips for ease of consumption - especially the chewing part - because black fungus has a crunchy, chewy texture akin to bone cartilage. I kid you not!

Black fungus - they remind me of crunchy ears!

Labeled as a medicinal food for thousands of years and known for its rich nutrients such as iron, protein, fat, vitamins, polysaccharide, and other minerals, black fungus tastes neutral and is said to be able to replenish “Qi” (essential energy), enrich and activate blood, purify lungs and intestines, etc. Considered as a 'meat' in vegetables, the iron contained in black fungus is one the highest among all the vegetables; people who eat it regularly tend to be at lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and have a normal blood viscosity - a similar result to the effects of aspirin. So a big Yay! to black fungus.

I opted out from using the prescribed tomato sauce (2 cups...really?). Instead I roasted some tomatoes, peeled and chopped them up, then sauteed that along with the black fungus and tofu. Which reminds me, the tofu slices served as my prawn impostors. I simply sliced firm tofu into thin slices and deep-fried them before tossing them into the tomato and mushroom 'sauce'. These noodles were pretty cool... they do nothing to remind me of French food, of course, but that's beside the point! 

Have a peek at what other's made out of this recipe over at FFWD. Should be pretty interesting...

Spend the weekend doing something beautiful, that's my wish for you!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Creative Cooking Crew - Lemongrass Chickpea Tofu Skewers with Spicy Soya Pomelo Dip

Helloo....and Happy New Year!! Yes, I know everyone all over the world said that over 3 weeks ago but I haven't blogged since November last year, so better late than never :).

This month is the first time our newly revamped cooking group, the Creative Cooking Crew (CCC), is making its appearance. Our CCC hosts are Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks and Joan of Foodalogue and our challenge this month is to showcase Vegan food in a totally creative way, right up my alley!

I've featured many vegan posts in my Instagram gallery (@divaeatslife) but sometimes the recipes just get lost within the folds of my memory... You see, the beauty of IG is that it's not a blog and therefore recipes are usually ad hoc because there's no real need to elaborate on the 'how to' of the food pictures being posted up there. Occasionally though, I do make an effort to record my recipes properly, and this is one of them.

A friend recently challenged me to make food that can be served without any plates, bowls, cups or any serving utensils, so that's what you'll also notice here. An improvized plate made out of screwpine (pandan) leaves and bowl out of a small pomelo lime shell. For the skewers, I used lemongrass stalks and simply wrapped the paste-like batter around them corndog style. I think I must've have pushed my creativity boundaries to the limit (there is none, with this one, but I'm happy with how everything looks  and tastes here!

The texture of the tofu skewers is lightened with the creaminess of the ground chickpeas, and its flavor enhanced with my seasonings of choice - fresh lemongrass and Za'atar powder. You can also use cayenne pepper instead of Za'atar if you're not feeling so adventurous. In this cooking group, though, being mainstream is the last thing you'd want to be because everyone else is fearlessly creative and there is nothing - foodwise, at least - most of us are unwilling to try!

There will be a round-up of the CCC's vegan offerings on January 30 over at Joan's blog. Head over there then, won't you?

Lemongrass Chickpea Tofu Skewers with Spicy Soya Pomelo Dip
Makes 6

2 pieces firm tofu
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Za'atar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 stick lemongrass (white part only) sliced
2 tablespoons plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste

6 lemongrass stalks, for skewers

1/3 cup soya sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
juice of 1 pomelo lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 teaspoon finely chopped chili
1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

1. Blend all ingredients except lemongrass skewers in a food processor and process until it becomes a thick paste. 

2. Scoop a heaped tablespoon of paste and wrap it around the thick end of the lemongrass skewer. Form into a sausage shape along the skewer. Wet your palms and fingers in between each shaping so the paste/dough doesn't stick. Place tofu skewers in the freezer to chill for at least 10 minutes.

3. Heat some oil in a deep pan under medium heat. Gently lower the skewers into the oil and fry until golden brown. Drain excess oil on paper towels and serve immediately.

4. For the dip, place all the ingredients in a bowl, give the mixture a good stir and serve immediately with tofu skewers. 

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